What’s In A Word? The Debate Over “ObamaCare”: The Name & The Law

By Kristina

Feb 18, 2011 1:27pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson & Matthew Jaffe report: 

The debate over President Obama’s health care reforms has been raging for years now, but on Capitol Hill today the debate shifted from the merits of the new law to simply how lawmakers should refer to it.

House Democrats say it should be called the Affordable Care Act, as it’s technically named. Most Republicans prefer to call it ObamaCare. 

On the House floor this morning Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., argued that GOP lawmakers should be forbidden from calling it “ObamaCare” because that term is disparaging to the president.

“We have rules on the House floor that prohibit members from making disparaging remarks about the President of the United States and the Republicans mean ObamaCare as a disparaging term,” Wasserman-Schultz told ABC News in an interview. “The law is called the Affordable Care Act. It is a law that makes sure that people cannot be dropped or denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. It is a law that makes sure that seniors don’t have astronomically high prescription drug costs. It makes sure that children can get the kind of insurance coverage that they desperately need.”

“I think it should be called the Affordable Care Act and Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to continue to make a disparaging reference to the president while expressing their concerns about the provisions in the law,” she added.

Of course, only minutes after Wasserman-Schultz spoke on the floor this morning, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, used the term “ObamaCare” a slew of times.

“They’re losing the argument and they’re declaring the name of the policy pejorative. If they were winning, they’d be happy to call it ObamaCare,” King told ABC News afterwards.

“They’re trying to rename it because they can’t win the debate over it,” he said. “The American people have rejected it.”

“I want it to describe what America knows it to be. Rather than having to describe the 2500 pages, I’m just going to continue to call it ObamaCare and let America decide if it’s pejorative.”

King argued that President Obama himself used the term during a health care summit at Blair House last year.

“President Obama called it ObamaCare. I know he uses his middle name but no one else can, but he’s named it ObamaCare and that’s the only way to describe it. It’s the best way to describe it.”

The President did reference the term, saying, “It turns out that more Americans are now getting their health care coverage from government than those that are getting it from the private sector. And you know what, that’s without a bill from the Democrats or from President Obama. Has nothing to do with “Obamacare.”

But why not just call it the Affordable Care Act?

“It’s not affordable in the first place,” King replied. “It’s $2.6 trillion in spending over the first ten years, so that doesn’t work. I don’t know what else to call it.”

“It’s an over-spending bill that is the largest taking of American liberty in the history of the United States. It takes away our ability to control our own health. It’s a nationalization of our skin and everything inside it – and it’s a ten percent tax on the outside if you go to the tanning salon. I’ve called it a malignant tumor that threatens to metastasize. All of that’s under the moniker ObamaCare. But the other side has argued and defended it, so if they were successful, they wouldn’t think the term ObamaCare was pejorative,” King added.

“This is a piece of language that if you google it, you get millions of hits on ObamaCare,” King said. “It’s got to be in dictionaries by now – I haven’t checked – but it’ll certainly be in dictionaries in the future. I think as children read this in their history books, they will read ObamaCare.”

“It’s in the vernacular. In fact,” he quipped, “it’s in my spell check.”

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